Review by MagnaBlaze
"Tales of Symphonia is undoubtedly the best game I have ever played."
Tales of Symphonia is a role-playing game for the Gamecube. It is part of the popular "Tales of" series, and is quite possibly the greatest game in the series. It is a role-playing game which features a good story with good character development, great length, tons of replayability, and even an amazing and original battle system which can be played with one to four characters. If you are a fan of role-playing games, you will not be disappointed with this game.
The game's strongest point is the gameplay. The controls are very simple and easy to get used to quickly, and can be customized any way you want. The controls on the world map are very simple, most of which include moving and talking to other characters. When you are in towns, the camera angle is fixed and you may talk to characters freely without getting in to any type of battle. When on the world map and in certain dungeons, instead of getting in random encounters, you are able to see the monsters on the world map and in the cases of most monsters, you can decide whether you want to fight them or not by running in to them. At that point, a battle starts.
The battle system is one of the best features of this game. Instead of a turn-based battle system, you are presented with a real-time battle system. Your group of characters (up to four may take part in a battle) go up against a group of enemies in a new battlefield. The battlefield is 3-dimensional, but with a 2-dimensional fighting area. You can press a butrton to choose with monster to attack, and your view will shift so you are fighting 2-dimensionally with that monster, while your allies may still be attacking monsters in other parts of the battlefield. You may use basic attacks to defeat your enemies, or you can use a special arsenal of technical attacks, which can be used be pressing a certain button, and in some cases, tilting the control stick a certain way. You can also open the menu for options to use items, equip other items, and even escape from the battle. You can also switch your character in the middle of a battle, and can always control any character you like, while the AI will control the other three characters. You may also set a specific attack "pattern" for the AI characters, such as "Attack Frontlines and Heal", which will force them to only attack in the frontlines of the battle, and heal other characters who get low on hit points. To top it all off, there is a special "Unison Attack" that you will eventually have access to. These unison attacks allow your party to use special techs all-together, racking up major damage on the enemy. Some characters have "Compound Unisons". This means that when one character uses a certain skill, and another character uses another skill in the same Unison attack, both of these skills will be combined and those characters will execute a "Compound Unison", which is an extremely powerful attack that can only be used in Unisons. Finally, there is a "Combo Counter" to go along with all of this. Combos can be initiated in battle, and every time you start to get a combo, you will see a "Combo Counter" in the upper right corner of the screen. Combos don't actually do anything in particular, except record how many times you were able to hit an enemy consecutive times. The battle system, in short, is excellent.
After every battle, you gain experience, which is used to bring your characters to higher levels and make them more powerful. You also get "Gald", the game's currency, which allows you to buy items and weapons for your characters; both of these currencies depend on the type of enemies you're fighting. There is also a special type of currency you gain, called "Grade". You get a certain amount of grade after every battle, which reflects how well you did during that battle. Grade is a special currency which is rarely used in the game, and is only used for getting very special items. Grade is also used to gain a "special suprise" at the end of the game.
This game has special "Titles" which contribute in battle. There are certain titles which you can change here and there which makes your character either more or less powerful in battle. Titles, when equipped for a long time, can help you significantly. Of course, there are a couple titles that are there just for comedic purposes, or just to change your character's appearance.
Another thing I need to point out is a new "Synopsis" guide. This is a guide that may be reached at any time that shows you what you have currently done in your mission, and gives you hints and advice on where you should be headed next. This section is extremely helpful and allows people to beat the game without ever checking an FAQ. Your synopsis is always important.
This game can be as easy or hard as you want it to be. You can attempt to go through the game on the easiest mode, powerleveling to make the game very easy, or you can go through the game on the toughest mode availible and avoid leveling up or changing weapons to make the bosses later on quite a challenge It's all up to you.
The story, while being a little clichéd, is quite interesting and makes good use of a few major plot twists. The game starts off by explaining a legend about a giant tree which dried up and died for reasons beyond anybody's control. The next thing you know, a "Chosen One" must go forth and save the world from the evil forces that are threatening it and make everybody happy. You start the game as your main character, named Lloyd, and his two friends; Colette, the "Chosen One", and Genis, his best friend who is, well, a genius. You quickly learn about a legendary hero, and about what the Chosen One must do to save the world, and the story goes on from there. From the beginning, the story sounds pretty basic, but the story continues on rising throughout the game and incorporates several plot twists that'll make you sorry for doubting the game's story when you first started.
Along with the story, the character development is quite good in this game. Many different characters will join you, each with their own personality and traits. The main characters are portrayed well and their growth is shown through the storyline, and through "skits". Skits are short conversations between characters that you can view at certain times through the game. Most skits help show character growth and interaction between characters, while some provide hints on where to go next. Others are just plain hilarious. You may also choose to do certain sidequests and find special skits, which raises a character's "affection ranking" for you.
"Affection Ranking" pretty much refers to how much a character likes Lloyd (your main character). The options you choose in certain menus, as well as how you do certain sidequests and how you talk to other characters have a big effect on whether certain characters like or hate you, and the story in the second half of the game changes quite a lot depending on what characters like and hate you most. There are also special parts of the story which can only be seen with the character that likes you most. Because of this, those who care about the story will probably end up replaying this at least three times to fill in the gaps.
In short, the character growth is quite good in this game, and the story starts off good, and ends up great. The characters all have deep histories, and you'll have to play the game numerous times to completely understand the whole story. The game's major enemies and villains also have a deep and dark past which explains a lot about them and really allows you to "know" your enemies. While rather overdone, in the eyes of some, Tales of Symphonia has an excellent story for everyone, especially those who are newer to role-playing games.
The graphics in this game vary, depending on whether you are a fan of the more realistic-type of graphics, or like anime and cartoonish graphics better. The biggest argument with this game's graphics is the cell-shaded style, though in my opinion, that just makes the graphics better. Every character model in the game is extremely detailed and each character just looks so smooth. To add to that, every weapon you equip changes the weapon model that your character has in battle, and some costumes change your character's battle model as well. Even the characters that have no significant part in the story are very well modelled and colored. The areas all look extremely well textured and detailed, and most of the areas had excellent coloring and detail that gave them the perfect atmosphere. Forests were textured down to the very last detail, and most dungeons were dark and the atmosphere actually felt like you were in an actual dungeon.
The only real argument of the game's graphics is the monsters that appear on the world map, and some of the map's textures, which are not as great as they could be. Though most of the flaws in the graphics are barely noticeable and won't interfere with gameplay in any way.
This game's sound and music are top-notch. This game has voiceovers. Every character has their own voice, and most main characters talk in important storyline events. Characters always talk in battle when they either get hit when they're casting a spell, are about to use a spell, attack, and many other things. When a battle starts, and ends, one of the characters talks. In rare occurences, multiple characters talk, and some of those sequences can be quite funny. The only argument that most people have with the voice acting is that voice acting is not present in "skits", nor is it availible in most regular conversations in towns, which brings the whole value down a bit.
Most of the other sounds in battle are quite detailed, even if you're just hitting the opponent with your sword or casting a spell (which has a different sound effect depending on the type of element the spell is). There's some ambience throughout the game, and some sound effects in certain dungeons, which always adds to the feel of the game. Other than a few other "beeps" here and there in menus, there's nothing much more to add about the sound.
The music, on the other hand, is incredible. Most of the music fit the atmosphere in this game PERFECTLY. When you're in a town, the theme is quiet and relaxing, while the music in dungeons is usually more dark and mysterious. Most of the busier towns and cities will have a more fast-paced theme, and ruins usually have depressing music to follow them. The music is perfectly fitting. The best thing about the music, however, is the battle themes. That's where this game really shines. Right from the start of the game, the battle themes are quite good. The normal battle themes help you get in a mood for fighting, and some of the boss battle themes are just downright incredible. The music in this game is excellent, and the boss battle themes are some of the best battle themes of all time.
This game promises to offer over 80 hours of gameplay, but that just varies depending on the type of gamer you are. If you're just an average gamer who's checking the game out, or if you want to beat the game while skipping most of the sidequests, you can expect to see about 50 hours of gameplay in total. Otherwise, if you're either an RPG fan, or someone who wants to complete the game completely, you can expect to see at least 60+ hours in this game. I currently have over 210 hours logged in and am still not even close to completing the game yet.
In order to fully complete all the game's sidequests, or to just fully discover the past of all the game's characters, you will need to replay this game at least three times. There are several different pieces of information and other items that you have to choose between in certain parts of the game, so you will definitely have to play again if you want to see the other parts that you skipped through the first time.
Buy or Rent
This section varies. If you're not in to RPGs at all and are just checking this game out because of the hype, I suggest you rent it first just to see if you like it, and if this is the type of game for you. However, if you're a gamer looking for a traditional RPG to have loads of fun with, this is the game for you.
Tales of Symphonia is an excellent game, and I would go so far as to say it is one of the greatest games I have ever played in my life. The battle system is absolutely incredible, and the AI is advanced enough to act the exact way you want it. The storyline and character development are both incredible in so many ways. The graphics are incredibly detailed and add to the atmosphere of the game. The music in this game really fits the atmosphere, and the battle music is just outstanding. The replayablility factor in this game, especially for roleplayers, is very large and is one of the only RPGs you'll ever be playing such a large amount of times. In short, this is an excellent roleplaying game that no fan of the genre should ever pass up.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 12/03/04
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